GP3 – are you aware of how good and great it is? I must confess I wasn’t fully convinced by the series until I took a trip to Estoril where GP3 paddock had gathered for a bit of post-season testing.
Once again I arrived in style (on foot, after a flat out ride at the back of a public bus, napping in pure Iceman fashion) and was the only pedestrian through the paddock tunnel under the main straight with a good chance of being run over by a team truck… Luckily, I made it in one piece and was greeted by the gorgeous sound of the 2013 GP3 car exiting the pits (driven by champion Mitch Evans), while 2012 cars were buzzing along, tackling Estoril’s elevations and classic corners. Nothing compares to that feeling when you enter a circuit early in the morning and there’s a smell of petrol in the air!
I then proceeded with acclimatising to the paddock and pit lane, looking at angles for possible pics, checking out teams and drivers, choosing targets for quick chats, well, you know – the usual stuff. GP3 technical boss Didier Perrin offered some assistance and explained why the new GP3/13 car – which boasts a mighty V6/400 bhp naturally-aspirated engine this time – will be ‘sexy’ and generally a great entertainer for the crowds (read full interview in a separate blog). Here’s the truth: I was immensely impressed with the work they’ve done on the car and the level of technical expertise in GP3/GP2 operation.
I knew I had to get Jack Harvey, the reigning British F3 champion, on the mic, even if it meant scaring the hell out of Carlin team manager, oops… To their credit, the guys were very open and friendly, something you don’t find in F1 these days. Jack is a cool customer, very concentrated on his job and ready for a new challenge in 2013 (with suport from The Racing Steps Foundation). Estoril test was a good chance for Jack to adjust to GP3 in general, get to know the series, the tyres. Next generation GP3 car was something he would’ve preferred to drive… And yes, GP3 is very different from Formula 3. I couldn’t help but ask a cheeky question regarding F1’s latest wave of crashes, incidents, etc., especially in the wake of media claims that drivers in lower formulae might adopt such attitudes. Jack defined the situation as “a lot of young drivers eager to prove themselves” and “accidents happen”. Come to think of it – perhaps racing drivers know better than us!
The second half of the day was well spent hanging around the magic box, also known as the centre of everybody’s attention. OK, the garage allocated for the 2013 car, this time covered in experimental black carbon fibre panels. Various drivers and team personnel paid frequent visits, studying and touching the machine, asking Didier to be nice to them and make sure it’s a good one. There was already evidence that the car is destined to become a classic: when they fired up the engine and revved it for a while – a BIG smile on people’s faces (yer humble servant included) explained everything. Tio Ellinas was rather fond of GP3’s latest creation, he even performed some kind of a tribal dance around it, probably in an attempt to worship racing gods… “I’m going for the championship next year!” he wasted no time in telling me; I like the attitude.
A quick note on GP3 champion Mitch Evans – the guy is extremely fast, I’m sure we’ll see him in F1 one day. The way he handled the car, even in the rain on day 2! Just watching him accelerate on the back straight, applying the throttle or methodically shift through the gears with precision before entering the first corner was awesome. It sort of reminded me of Olivier Panis who drove his BAR around Estoril like a demon when F1 circus visited Portugal in preparation for the (infamous) 2002 Austrian Grand Prix (a nice circuit by the way, it’s a shame it’s no longer on the F1 calendar).
Russia’s Daniil Kvyat (the quickest man on the opening day of testing) also featured on my interview wish list, but MW Arden driver simply didn’t have time! He surely was in demand (I doubt they left him any time to eat during the session!), switching between cockpit and team truck or having endless debriefs with engineers in the garage. Better luck next time.
Pirelli box looked quite intriguing, too, so I decided to explore it a little bit, maybe find out all about GP3’s black gold. It turns out Pirelli people are very happy with their tyres, roughly 6,000 of them (tyres, not people) per year… And all of them destroyed after use in order not to give away any secrets. I noticed a large stock of “fallen heroes”, flattened and ready to be ‘shredded’, such is their fate… The 2013 specification tyres will be slightly modified, but not too much. Apparently, the feedback from Mitch Evans in that area was good, the GP3/13 liked its tyres. The main difference between GP2 and GP3 tyre? GP3 Pirelli P Zero differs ‘construction-wise’.
At this point, I think I must pay tribute to the mechanics and technicians who make it all happen, they worked tirelessly on the cars. Let’s not forget about their massive input.
So, I knew it before and I confirmed it this November in Estoril: field work is the best way to learn new things. GP3, you’ll carry me! The amount of energy you get from motor racing is simply incredible – raw power got a magic touch, raw power is much too much…
PS Full picture gallery is now on Flickr, just click here!